Despite the lopsided nature of the series in recent years, in which the Tide has won the last four meetings, head coach Nick Saban said his team will not overlook one of Alabama’s biggest rivals.
“I think Tennessee’s a very, very well-coached team,” Saban said. “I have a lot of respect for this football team.”
Saban said his team hasn’t changed its preparation at all, despite the rivalry implications.
“We don’t really do anything different in preparation,” Saban said. “I think we have a lot of respect for Tennessee, and we have a lot of respect for the rivalry. It’s something we really hold in high esteem, and we try to make our people proud.”
Senior wide receiver Darius Hanks echoed his coach’s thoughts on the game.
“I feel just like any other game,” Hanks said. “Just like any other SEC game, it’s a big game. Last time, when we had the same record, the game was pretty tight. Coach Saban’s been preaching we can’t let them get up on us. We got to come out strong this week.”
Alabama defense ready for Tennessee
On the season, one of Tennessee’s strong points has been its offense, particularly in its passing game. On the season, the Vols rank 23rd nationally in passing offense with 294 yards a game. Saturday against LSU, Vols running back Tauren Poole rushed for 70 yards against LSU’s vaunted defense.
Despite the loss of quarterback Tyler Bray for the game, Saban said he still greatly respects Tennessee’s offensive game.
“This is one of the best, most well-coached teams in the passing game that we play,” Saban said. “And they’re probably leading the league… on third down conversions because of that. They ran the ball effectively last week; they ran the ball on us last year.”
Still, for junior defensive lineman Damion Square, the only thing his team needs to worry about is executing on defense. Square alluded to the lack of execution last year when Poole was the only running back on the season to rush for over 100 yards on Alabama’s defense.
Square said that Tennessee’s offense is still nothing to be overlooked.
“They’re a good bunch,” Square said. “They got guys that want to run the ball. That’s what they like to do. They want to get a lot of movement up front, and they want to run the football. That’s the one thing that we gotta go in and stop.”
Saban said sophomore guard Anthony Steen is day-to-day with his concussion on whether he will play against Tennessee Saturday. Steen did not practice Wednesday.
Sophomore running back Eddie Lacy continued to practice Wednesday, although he was limping badly.
Junior offensive lineman Barrett Jones did not practice Wednesday due to a “nagging injury.” Both Jones and Saban said they expected him to play Saturday.